Simpson University Professor Conducts Peace-Building Training in Laos
For Immediate Release
REDDING, Calif. - When he’s not engaging students in intercultural studies, Simpson University professor Stephen Bailey travels up to four times a year to Laos, more than 7,000 miles away, to help build relationships between government and religious leaders.
Dr. Bailey spent the first two weeks of January in Laos and will return in June. He is in contact almost daily via email and Skype with the Lao Peace-Building Team with which he is working.
Dr. Bailey and his family lived in Laos for 17 years, where he did ministry and community development work with The Christian and Missionary Alliance. During that time, he met Robert Seiple, then-U.S. Ambassador of Religious Freedom.
Dr. Bailey left Laos in 2001 to teach at Alliance Theological Seminary in New York. When Dr. Seiple asked if he would consider working with the Institute for Global Engagement (IGE) in Laos, he didn’t hesitate. For the last 12 years, he’s traveled across the world two to four times annually.
“I care deeply about what happens in Laos,” said Dr. Bailey, who joined Simpson University’s Theology and Ministry faculty in 2011. “I have been so blessed to know many wonderful Buddhist, Baha’i, Christian, Muslim and Animist Lao people over the past 30 years, so I want to contribute to Lao society as best I can.”
In 2000, Seiple and his wife founded IGE. According to the website, “The Seiples were concerned that religious freedom was something everyone talked about but no one really knew how to operationalize, and that Christians were too often part of the problem. They founded IGE to address these issues, making Christ visible and Christians relevant as a result.”
IGE “advances the view that religious freedom—properly implemented—is integral to a flourishing society, and a stable state.”
In Laos, that means Dr. Bailey and other staff members meet with government and religious leaders to organize educational and relationship-building seminars on the topic of religious freedom. The seminars educate government leaders on the rights of religious minorities—but perhaps more importantly, he noted, they create a safe space for these groups to build relationships through meals and fellowship.
Over the last year, Dr. Bailey has been working on training 15 government and religious leaders in peace-building skills. The goal is to set up a Lao Peace-Building Team that can do training in the countryside where religious persecution and conflict is present.
“You cannot be for religious freedom for your own faith and not promote religious freedom for someone else’s faith,” he said. “Part of being a Christian is to love your neighbors, and that means seeking their welfare.”
Dr. Bailey said his experiences in Laos shape his theological and anthropological reflections. “In other words, I think out of my experiences there,” he said. “This means that my students hear a lot of stories about Laos.”
And not just hear stories—in summer 2013, Dr. Bailey took five Hmong American Simpson University students to Laos to learn firsthand about missions work there. All the students’ parents had been born in Laos, but none had ever been to that country, he said. Several of them were able to meet relatives for the first time.
“I was so impressed with the way the students reached out and coped with the heat, difficult travel and cross-cultural communication,” Dr. Bailey said in 2013. “It was the best short-term team I have ever been part of. We were able to learn about missions and justice in a very personal and deep way together.”
Watch a video of Dr. Stephen Bailey describing his involvement with Laos and IGE here (click on his photo).
Photos courtesy Stephen Bailey:
Top Left: Simpson University professor Stephen Bailey meets with a Buddhist monk in Laos.
Bottom Right: Simpson University students and Dr. Stephen Bailey traveled to Laos on a missions trip in summer 2013.
Simpson University, established in 1921, is a Christian university offering undergraduate, graduate, and teaching credential programs. The university celebrated its 25th year in Redding and the completion of a Science and Nursing Center in 2014. Academic programs include ASPIRE, a degree-completion program geared toward working adults with both on-campus and online course offerings, including degrees in psychology and organizational leadership. For information about the university, or to arrange a campus visit, call 1-888-9-SIMPSON or visit simpsonu.edu.
Contact: SU Public Relations